Giacomo wrote this as part of his study of the meditation on death, to help him remember some important points to reflect on. It is his hope that it will similarly help others.
When we do not remember about our own transience we completely forget the Dharma. Even if we do not forget it completely we undertake it as mere scholastic study or view it as some kind of object to keep on a shelf outside ourselves. Maybe we are doing prostrations out of habit but we never get to the point where we start applying what we are studying. It is not enough to just think about it or talk about it being useful – we have to actually act upon it, first in our own mind and then in relation to our behavior and attitude toward others.
And when we do act sometimes mixed motivations can be involved so we need to remember that no worldly pleasures will be of any help when the bell of death rings for us. Of course pleasurable things give us pleasure but they only last for a short while…and then? Gone. And what remains? Just an imprint of attachment, just a cause of anguish and torment for the future. Why do we spend so much energy on all that? Why not put that energy into something worthwhile like developing bodhicitta?
When we produce a good cause through bodhicitta that cause can multiply infinitely. Any positive force produced by bodhicitta will mature as a favorable condition for us to be able to continue doing our practice. And what do we do when we are practicing? We are producing new and stronger positive forces based on bodhicitta, and this will go on and on until we become a Buddha. At that time all those connected with us and all those wandering beings who are just like us will start their journey on the very same path through the very same process, like a magical wish-fulfilling tree producing infinite other trees of the very same species – fully pervading the universe without any limitations, without any boundaries.
If we still lack energy in our practice or get stuck in a kind of on-off mode of doing a little practice then forgetting to come back to it for hours or days and so on, we need to remember that death can come to us NOW – not next year, next week, tomorrow, tonight, but NOW. We do not know when that moment will be. Nobody knows. Only Buddhas know but we are not Buddhas. That is why we need to practice NOW rather than tomorrow! This present moment is the only moment given to us to really live within so it is the only moment in which we can really practice – there cannot be another one. Even if we sincerely wish to practice in the future that future may never arrive. When the future becomes present then there is a new future to help us procrastinate. Our procrastinating mind does not change, does not become the mind of a Buddha just because of the passage of time.
So it is only in this present moment that I can make a decision to cultivate the intention to do something good and act in a good way. Or I can let my mind and actions be swept away like so much garbage. It is only now that I can decide to fall back into old habits or try to let energy and vigor arise in order to cultivate the antidote. Only now, not in the past or in the future, can I develop the opponent forces which allow me to purify all my misdeeds so that I will be able to die without regret. Only now can I find peace and happiness looking within my own mind by discovering how things really are, by finding comfort in my own virtue, my own nature, and by being at ease with my true face.